Australia v West Indies, DLF Cup, Final September 24, 2006

'Getting to the final was a plus' - Lara



Brian Lara believes that West Indies will be a force to reckon with in India for the Champions Trophy © AFP

Though it ended badly, with a 127-run hammering in Australian hands, Brian Lara was fairly satisfied with West Indies efforts over the past fortnight. And though they have to pre-qualify to defend their Champions Trophy crown, Lara was confident that those three matches would help their cause before they came up against the big boys.

"I thought in the first half of the game, in the field, the guys worked really hard," said Lara, when asked for his thoughts on the match. "Unfortunately, we didn't get things going in the second half. We lost too many wickets early on, and put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We have crumbled in the past in this tournament, and it happened again this time from the beginning.

"Getting to the final was a plus. We've got a week in Malaysia before getting to the ICC [Champions Trophy], and we're going to be trying our best there. We are the defending champions and we have to go into that full of bottle, full of zest, and do ourselves proud."

Lara reckoned that the format might even play into West Indian hands. "I see it as a good way of going into the tournament," he said. "Australia, England, and Pakistan will arrive for their first game, but we will already have had three games going in. That's a slight plus."

Qualifying for the final here, ahead of a higher-ranked Indian team, was cause for satisfaction. "I do feel that being second-best against two teams rated higher than us was a good effort," he said. "I still have confidence in the guys, and it's just a question of working on the physical, mental, and technical aspects of our game."

It also pleased him that West Indies beat both Australia and India during the fortnight even with some players patently out of form. "Some guys are limited in their skills, and they want to work and enhance their game as much as possible," he said. "We have two or three coaches. We've got trainers, physios, and everyone trying to gel together and ensure not only that we win tournaments, but that we get better."

Despite a brittle middle order, Lara was optimistic when asked what positives he took from the tournament. "I think Dwayne Smith - we just need to get his batting together," he said. "You can see he's a power-hitter, but we need to get him to spend more time in the middle. I think Jerome Taylor improved as the tournament progressed. Chris Gayle had a pretty good tournament. We've got five or six in and around form. There are other players we have to massage and get together. I still believe in them."

There was also no fuss over his own dismissal, given out caught after the bat had brushed the pad. "Of course I was disappointed to get out, but these things happen," he said. And though he trudged back slowly, Lara suggested that he certainly hadn't been angling for a recall to the middle. "When the umpire gives me out, I'm not going to go back," he said, perhaps referring to the Sachin Tendulkar incident on Friday evening.

They may have come up well short today, but on placid Indian pitches with lightning fast outfields, the West Indian batting remains capable of shocking anyone. And if they can get Corey Collymore fit and into rhythm, they'll be dangerous floaters in a draw that has several teams struggling for a semblance of form.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo